When Israel’s leaders turned to Jephthah for help, they were in distress and wanted to ‘use’ him. So Jephthah said, in essence, ‘Let’s get an understanding of the type of relationship we’re going to have.’ At that point, he negotiated with them and ended up in a top leadership spot. When your trust has been violated, you need to forgive. By doing so, you set yourself free. But you must exercise wisdom in how to move forward. God doesn’t expect you to put yourself in a position to be hurt again.
Perhaps you’ve heard the story of the guy who went to the doctor with a severe burn on his right ear. He explained, ‘I was ironing and watching television when the phone rang, and I picked up the iron instead of the phone.’ Puzzled, the doctor said, ‘But how did you get the burn on your left ear?’ The man exclaimed, ‘Because he called back!’
Bottom line: when you’ve been ‘burned’ by someone, be careful about putting yourself in a position to be burned over and over again. Forgiveness must be freely given, but trust must be earned. Your offender must show the fruit of repentance—consistent behaviour that gives evidence that he or she has had a change of heart. John the Baptist said, ‘Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.’
You need two things: grace and wisdom. Grace means extending to others the same forgiveness that God has extended to you. Wisdom means knowing what kind of relationship you can have with that person in the future.